Artificial Sweeteners: Better or Worse Than Sugar?

You may be bored of me forever talking about sugar and sugar alternatives but forgive me artificial sweeteners are actually something I have never touched on. There’s a common belief that popping a Canderel or two into your morning coffee is a much better alternative to spooning in the refined white stuff. However, where have these thoughts come from, what are the differences and are we doing more harm than good?

In the past we have always believed that if we’re looking to shed a few pounds we’re better to swap sugar for sweeteners, however, we have never really thought about the long term impact that these sweeteners may be having on our health. 

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Last year a review was published which provided a warning where by we should be cautious on the amount of sweeteners we are consuming due to the safety of them. The review suggested that there are not enough RCTs (randomised control trials are one of the most reliable study methods) to deem these additives as ‘safe’. 

However, research surrounding sweeteners and weight gain is very conflicting. Despite sweeteners containing little to no calories some studies have found that they stimulate sugar cravings which can lead to choosing sweeter foods and consequent weight gain.  

The main issues which keep being flagged in research surrounding artificial sweeteners are related to neurological disorders and cerebrovascular disease. 

Recent research in a study using data from The Framingham Heart Study has shown a correlation between the amount of artificial sweeteners consumed and an increased risk of stroke and dementia. 

Furthermore, additional research has suggested that the consumption of sweeteners may increase the risk of lymphoma and leukemia. 

I worry about the amount of artificial sweeteners within the diet and even stevia which has creeped into many healthy products and recipes has been categorised in some of these studies with other sweeteners such as aspartame (however, more research is needed on this). Furthermore we are currently unaware of any ‘safe limits’ of these additives. Overall, I recommend being aware of the amount you’re eating and limiting them where possible.